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Bruce Hawker passes the Labor baton to Mark Arbib

By Ian Wallace - posted Tuesday, 27 March 2012


The election is over and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh probably wishes she had ditched Bruce Hawker from her campaign as the architect of her negative attack disaster.

Even as late as the evening of the election Hawker was still blustering and trying to defend his approach to the campaign on the Sky news coverage. Liberal panelist Michael Kroger told Hawker that it was obvious that he still did not accept his leadership in the campaign was a total failure as the number of seats being won by the LNP spun like a poker machine out of control with winning numbers. Hawker is a dinosaur of Labor's past.

Before becoming a self-appointed political strategist and media commentator Bruce Hawker was the former Chief of Staff for the new Foreign Minister Bob Carr when Carr was New South Wales Premier. His links to Carr continue as he fades from the political scene and he seems to have set up Mark Arbib as his successor as the next Labor strategist.

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The veteran ALP spin-doctor has admitted that he is s unlikely to work on Labor's next federal election campaign after playing a starring role in Kevin Rudd's disastrous leadership challenge and now Bligh's wipeout.

Hawker convinced Bligh and Queensland Labor to focus on a no-holds-barred assault and a negative and increasingly bitter campaign designed not to defend Labor's record but to destroy the LNP Premier in waiting Campbell Newman.

Former Queensland Premier Rob Borbidge wrote recently that the great danger for Labor in adopting this type of campaign was that not many people were listening and even fewer seemed to care.

Hawker has been a member of the Labor Party for over thirty years and has worked on more than thirty state, territory and federal campaigns for the ALP - most of them successful.

He has always tried to assist in the election of Labor governments and most recently led the negotiations with independents Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott which secured the incumbent Labor government led by Julia Gillard a second term.

As an un-elected political operator he is resented by some within the elected Labor ranks for meddling in Labor caucus discussions and decisions. Even Prime Minister Julia Gillard commented publicly that the chaos Hawker and Kevin Rudd created in the failed leadership spill was unfair to Anna Bligh and her Queensland campaign.

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Some long serving Federal Labor politicians now wonder if his final parting act has been to somehow push his former boss Bob Carr into the Senate ahead of more deserving candidates. This manouvre has set up the opportunity for Mark Arbib to adopt Hawker's mantle as the next national campaign strategist for Labor.

As if following the Hawker model, Arbib has had an active role in NSW and National Labor for twenty years. Often Labor insiders and media commentators refer to him as a 'king maker". He is credited with putting Morris Iemma into power as Premier in 2005 and he ran a brilliant campaign to win the 2007 election. Bob Carr who has replaced him in the Senate says he is one of the best campaigners in the business and excellent his role in procuring political donations.

As with Hawker however his is not universally popular. ''Arbib has no beliefs, he stands for nothing except power," says one Labor insider. ''I've known him for a decade and I have never heard him express a view about history, philosophy, international affairs or anything political apart from tactics. It is all about polling.''

Arbib does have one advantage over Hawker if he emerges as the new Labor strategist – he at least had the guts to enter Federal parliament.

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About the Author

Ian Wallace is a Brisbane freelance writer.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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